- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

First lady Laura Bush, a former elementary school teacher, stepped back into the classroom yesterday to read a book with D.C. kindergarten students as part of a national project to connect American professionals with public schools.

Mrs. Bush is one of dozens of prominent people such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissenger, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, ABC "World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings and Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation, who are leading public school classes this week for "Teach for America."

Teach for America recruits recent college graduates to take two-year teaching assignments in urban and rural public school districts.

The aim is to provide schools with exceptional teachers and to create a corps of leaders who, informed by their teaching experience, become lifelong advocates for education, said Wendy Kopp, president and founder of the organization. Since 1990, more than 7,000 graduates have taught nearly 1 million students, she said.

"This is very fun for me," Mrs. Bush said as she walked into Allison Karsh's kindergarten class at Birney Elementary School in Southeast Washington yesterday morning.

For nearly 30 minutes, the first lady went through "Grandfather's Journey," a story by Allen Say about his Japanese grandfather's visit to America and his family's lifelong affection for both countries.

Mrs. Bush used a globe to illustrate the grandfather's journey across the Pacific and asked the 17 kindergarten students about key words in the book.

Journey means trip, she said, asking "Did you ever go on a trip?"

"I went on a trip to Jeepers," exclaimed one of the 5-year-olds, referring to the popular indoor amusement park chain.

Later, in an assembly hall with Leroy Owens, the principal of the school, and nearly 200 students and staff, Mrs. Bush accepted a school T-shirt, a Teach for America sweatshirt and dozens of envelopes containing money raised for Afghan children in response to President Bush's appeal last week for help from American children.

"Thank you so much for caring about the children of Afghanistan," Mrs. Bush said, as she accepted their donations of $172.64.

She urged the children to "think about teaching" as a profession. "Working with children is one of the most important things people can do," she said.

Mrs. Bush will be teaching in schools in New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia and Louisiana this week as part of Teach for America, her staff said.

Among those scheduled to teach in D.C. schools this week are Howard University President Patrick Swygert, Democratic Leadership Council founder Al From, Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald Graham as well as Emmy Barr, Krista Davey, Amy Gray and Louise Lieberman of the Washington Freedom Women's Soccer Team.


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